The IIHF World Junior Championship, outside of the Olympics, is arguably the most prestigious amateur tournament out there. UConn Men’s Hockey has two such players who have been named to preliminary rosters.
Adam Huska is one of five goaltenders in camp for Slovakia and Tage Thompson is on the preliminary Team USA roster. He must survive a cut from 15 forwards down to 13.
Sixteen forwards were named to the roster for the Americans, but Brock Boeser had wrist surgery on December 15 and will not play.
Teams that are always in contention for the national title, including many members of Hockey East, always have multiple players on national teams. If UConn can send two this year, it would be another sign of progress for the program under Mike Cavanaugh’s direction.
Huska was on Team Slovakia’s roster for the 2016 World Juniors, handling the bulk of the goaltending duties. He intends to use that to his advantage to be one of the three goaltenders selected to play in Montreal and Toronto.
“That was a really great experience for me,” Huska said. “The whole world is watching these games.”
In conference play, Huska is statistically the best goaltender in Hockey East. He has gotten the starting nod in seven Hockey East games and has the best save percentage (.940) and goals against average (1.95). The freshman has been playing very well this year for the Huskies and hopes to continue the momentum into camp and the tournament.
“If I play like I have here, everything will be ok,” he said.
As for Thompson, he faces a more difficult road. The American team is expected to compete for gold and has a deep forward group, including captain Luke Kunin of Wisconsin (11-6—17) and alternate captain Colin White of Boston College (10-7—17).
“It’s obviously an honor, representing your country,” Thompson said. “Any time you get selected, you’re representing your school as well.”
Thompson (12-8—20) is UConn’s leading scorer and is up there nationally, currently tied for 26th in the nation in points, tied for eighth among Hockey East players. Thompson is also tied for 10th nationally in goals.
“I think it’s important. We talk about this program accomplishing firsts,” head coach Mike Cavanaugh said. “Tage was the first first-round draft pick we had and now he and Adam are our first World Junior kids.”